Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Non-Rustic Sourdough

I would say that I'm my own worst critic. When it comes to things like bread, anyway. People (maybe some phobic of yeast baking) may look or taste what I've accomplished and be satisfied immensely, but I am a harder sell. My first several loafs of sourdough were ephemeral. They embodied what I always held up in my imagination that bread should be: simple, earthy, crusty, chewy. As my starter is aging, however, I notice that the easy baking of my first labors are behind me. Perhaps due to the maturation of the wild yeasts at work, or maybe just this cold, dry then damp again weather, my breads lately are leaving me wanting.

I've just returned from a long, relaxing weekend out at the "farm"... lounging in front of the fireplace, watching movies and playing games when the just barely gone snowbanks were replenished from above with snow and freezing rain. Visiting home is always restorative to me, even more since I usually get to cook a bit in my Mom's luxury kitchen. I always have help and conversation, and best of all I don't have to do all the dishes myself - and the group effort is exciting when I am solitary most of the time. On the drive back to Milwaukee, I began thinking about how I'd step up my sourdough methods - how I could be more calculating, and where I could turn to learn more about this morphing starter. When I wanted a bread for tonight, and only thought of it this morning, I figured where better to turn than King Arthur Flour.

Strangely, this bread is completely the opposite of all the wonderful sourdough qualities that I expect from bread. That doesn't mean that it isn't wonderful. It is soft, slightly sour with an almost spongy interior. (I mean spongy in the best possible way, mind you.) This is the bread that your picky son and husband will want to eat as a sandwich, but the bread that will still satisfy you, the self-proclaimed bread-snob.

The reasons that I didn't want to try this bread when my starter was first viable, were exactly the same as the reasons I now wanted to try it: it had both starter and commercial yeast, it made 2 loaves, and it used a stand mixer to knead. All of my bread snobbery is now officially laid to rest. All bread has it's place, and this one will fit well in my kitchen alongside soup and salad, or just plain accompanying cheese. I'm betting it will make great toast, too.

After first rise, shaped into elongated loaves.

After second rise, I always poke the dough to see the response.

I love King Arthur Flour's website. They always have a lot of information, and who else boasts a comprehensive help line via email or good old-fashioned telephone? Their recipes are sound, and their dedication to bread completely obvious. I like to think if I ever have extra money and a weekend to myself, I'll fly over to Vermont and take a few classes...

That said, I did change up their recipe just a little. I didn't need the bread to be done lickety-split, so I decreased the amount of commercial yeast. I also used a combination of weight and volume amounts. Another thing I love about their recipes is that you can toggle between weight and volume measures. Endearing, don't you think?

King Arthur Flour's Sourdough Bread (slightly adapted from KAF's recipe)
makes 2 loaves
  • 1 cup sourdough starter, well fed
  • 1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
  • scant 1 t. instant yeast
  • 1 T. sugar (I used raw)
  • 2 t. salt (I used Kosher)
  • 5 c. ap flour (I used the weight measurement of 21 1/4 oz. - and I still needed to add a little extra)
Mix all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer. Knead with a dough hook until the dough is cohesive and smooth, about 5 minutes. I needed to add a bit of extra flour - I added until the dough made a smooth ball that wasn't too sticky.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to get a feel for it. I kneaded by hand for several minutes. Put dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and let rise until doubled in size (this took about 2 1/2 hours for me).

After first rise, gently turn dough out onto the same floured surface and cut into two pieces. Lightly form into two elongated loaves, and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet (or use parchment paper, I used a sil-pat and lightly oiled it). Cover with a towel, and let rise until "very puffy", at least 1 hour (I let it go almost an hour and a half).

Preheat oven to 425 near the end of the second rise time.

Since I don't have a water spray bottle for my kitchen, I lightly wet my hands with warmish water and gently rubbed the surface of the loaves. Then slash each loaf twice, quickly but firmly with a serrated knife. Immedieately place in the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Mine took the entire 30. Bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and feel light for it's size. Let cool completely before cutting.

I knew it was just the day for a bread like this. Yesterday, my Husband was saying how he ate rather poorly when I was gone, and felt like eating less meat, since he feels better when he eats this way. (!!!) I tried to contain my excitement as I mentally plotted my veg attack for the remainder of the week during our dinner last night. This is just the thing I live for, since I do like meat, I just don't like a whole lot of it.

In 3 days, we'll have been married for 6 years, and this kind of information is still thrilling to me! We may not have everything in common, but I know that I have the best possible mate for me, and that is what it's all about. I know when he takes a bite of this bread at dinner tonight, my reward will be in his asking for seconds. That is how I know something is good. He may not be as rustic as I am, but he is mine, and I love him!

This post has been Yeastspotted.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Communication is a good thing, most of the time...